Ask Eric Gales what he wants most for his latest project Pinnick Gales Pridgen and he’ll answer simply: a chance to tour. On July 8, PGP will release their second album PGP2 through Magna Carta Records, a mere 17 months after their first collaboration garnered the adulation of critics throughout the rock and blues communities. Due to packed schedules surrounding multiple side projects, PGP have yet to test their material out on the road, a step Gales hopes to take with fellow band mates dUg Pinnick (bass, vocals) and Thomas Pridgen (drums). With or without a live audience to jam for, Gales is proud of the results the trio produced on PGP2. “Doing this record was massively exciting for me – I hope it comes together so we are able to tour,” Gales explained during a recent phone interview with Blues Rock Review. “We had a great time recording this album. I would definitely like to do it again.”
Ever since Pinnick Gales Pridgen released its debut album in early 2013, there has been talk of the “raw energy” that surrounds the music you create. Do you agree that this powerful energy exists?
It does, it does. You kind of have to be there; I hope it comes across on the records, but you kind of have to be there. It’s amazing.
How does the vibe of PGP differ from that of your many other projects?
I like to have a lot of energy and vibe with everything I do, but this whole raw three-piece presentation that we’ve put together turned out to be somewhat indescribable. It’s so raw and it hits you so hard; it’s virtually undeniable how hard everything goes. I don’t think it’s going to be possible for this band to tour, due to a lot of other things that are happening in our careers. At this point, I think I’ll just start to incorporate the tunes in my own sets in some way. But maybe someday we’ll get together and have two full albums of material to tour. That’s not taking away from the integrity of the record, or speaking ill about the situation. None of us have any bad feelings towards one another; it just seems that we have too many different projects going on, and we can’t commit to going on the road, though that’s absolutely what we need to do.
The first PGP record was amazing. It made everybody say, “Wow!” The second one is a great follow up. It’s undeniably banging in your face. I’ve got to say, this is a great band. It was a little iffy to me if the record was going to come out, but it came out, despite dUg having his many different projects. I have a few projects myself, but like I said, I would devote time to going out there. This is a project that is so huge that I think we could easily support it. If that happens, it will; but for right now, we’ve got some banging records that everybody will have the chance to listen to and judge for themselves about where PGP really is.
This is some of the hardest stuff I’ve ever done, and I really like it. It showcases a whole other side of me. Thomas has been wild since day one, and dUg has a wild streak in him. I guess as of now, I do too. It’s pretty cool. I don’t have any regrets about the project at all. When we come together, the vibe that we have is just amazing. All we need to do now is just follow up with a tour.
Does PGP have an appointed bandleader, or do you work democratically?
We work democratically. In certain areas we take roles according to what we’ve got going on, but musically, we work democratically.
Where was PGP2 recorded?
It was recorded in Prairie Sun Studios, in Cotati, California. I’ve recorded quite a few records there.
How long did it take to record the album?
For this album, we came in, wrote the songs, recorded it and tracked everything within a two-week frame.
Wow, that’s quick!
It’s virtually unbelievable, but that’s how it came together. We went in, started hammering out some grooves and wrote lyrics over it. For the first record, we kind of had some songs prepared that we brought to the table, but this record had even less than that. We went in, and with the help of Mike Varney producing the record we hammered it out.
One of the most distinctive aspects of PGP as a band is your incorporation of solos. How important is soloing to you as a guitarist?
That’s something I have become known for, but the rhythms we’ve created are pretty heavy. Having an equivalent solo approach that drives just as hard and hits you with an impact like the rhythms makes a complete package. They both work hand-in-hand. The opportunity to showcase both is ideal. To me, soloing is pretty important. I look at it in that view that it’s a representation of me, so I try to do the best I can.
You and dUg share vocal responsibilities on PGP2. How do you decide who sings lead on the songs?
We sort it out. If a song has the right vibe, we know immediately. For some of them, we try to see where we can mix and sing together. I think it came together really well. It’s not like we have to draw straws; we just see what fits for whose voice, and it works out.
On your first album with PGP, you found inspiration for your instrumental track “For Jasmine” in Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” Why did you choose that particular classical composition?
I picked it because I do my own rendition [of “Fur Elise”] live. Jasmine is my daughter, and it makes me think of her. It’s a beautiful piece, and a lot of people like what I did with it. It’s a short piece, but it’s so beautiful. It was just something for my daughter – I wanted to do something specifically for her. I wanted it to be something that everybody would recognize when they heard it, but with my own twist added to it.
Your brother Eugene is credited as a co-writer on another one of your new tracks, “Watchman.” What was Eugene’s involvement on this track?
That song was actually written maybe 10, 15 years ago. Everybody was aware of the Watchman; the Watchman takes his time, no reason, no rhyme, no explanation, no nothing. It waits for no one, it drops the hammer down, and there is really nothing you can do to sway him. A lot of people would like to have a stab at killing that Watchman. I was much younger 15 years ago, and it was something my brother and this other guy Paul Ebersold had come up with, and I was like, “Man, that’s some deep stuff.” I really didn’t know it at the time, but revisiting it, I like the vibe of the song. Even without the lyrics being there, the sound to it is like, “Wow – something’s going to happen!” I was very glad to be able to incorporate some of my brother’s and my work and bring it out of the archives and to the table.
You started playing guitar under the tutelage of your older brothers when you were only four years old. In terms of musical inspiration, what professional vocalists and guitarists did you look up to as a young musician?
I listened to a bunch of everything. Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Eric Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robin Trower, Frank Marino. I like to put it all into a pot and stir it up into a pot of gumbo. Whatever comes out on the spoon is what winds up happening. I listen to a lot of people. Vocally, there’s John Lee Hooker again, but just anything that inspired me. That ranges from gospel to R&B to a lot of different things. I think I’m really a musician at heart, because I like all kinds of stuff and all kinds of styles. I mix and match and swap stuff here and there. I’m definitely inspired by a lot of gospel. It’s a place in my heart I can’t get away from, even if I try, so there is some sort of spiritual vibe in whatever it is I’m doing. That might explain a lot of the passion that comes out, because it’s coming from a place that’s totally driven by inspiration.
You have shared the stage with a long list of incredible musicians over the years. Are there any other musicians you’d like to play with whom you haven’t yet had the chance to?
I’d like to play with Jeff Beck, and I’d like to play with John Mayer. Those are the two off the top of my head that I’d most like to play with.
What was it like to have so many people focused on your career when you were identified as a guitar prodigy by a Guitar World reader’s poll at age 16?
Man, it was amazing. I might not have been aware of everything that was before me at the time, because I was taking it in stride as much as I could. But, believe it or not, I was overwhelmingly happy. I was happy, but I still stayed as focused on my craft as I could. I’m fortunate to be here still, even after all my experiences. Twenty years later, it’s still an amazing thing for me. If I passed away today, I could say that I’ve done some things that a lot of people can’t say they’ve done.
Interview by Meghan Roos
Photos by Ross Pelton